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Iz in ur meme / aminalizin teh langwich: A linguistic study of LOLcats

By Aliza Rosen

From the Author: Ohai! I can haz ur atenshun? Dis paypur lukz at won of da most popularest trendz on teh interwebz. LOLkittehz, or LOLcats, as teh hoomanz sez it, iz nawt juzt a passin fad but raddur 1 dat haz spurd a kulchur and langwich awl itz own.

LOLspeak (pronounced [LAWL-speak]), referred to by many as “kitty pidgin,” is the variation of English found in the millions of captions superimposed on images of cats. The combinations of images and childishly spelt captions are circulated endlessly throughout the Internet and known as LOLcats. The language is an obvious deviation from standard English but remains intelligible to most English speakers. This paper examines the overlying linguistic patterns found in LOLcat captions and hypothesizes as to the influences of the language.

From the Faculty Nominator: I intentionally leave wide open the topic of the final paper in my introduction to linguistics class, and as a result, my students explore quite a variety of topics each semester. Aliza’s paper was one of the freshest, cleverest, and most intriguing papers I have received in recent years. I am sure that some will think that LOLcats don’t lend themselves to scholarly research, but I hope that Aliza’s paper convinces doubters to rethink this position. She begins by attempting to describe the language of LOLcat captions (and, as is the case for many nonstandard varieties of English, what at first appears to be little more than poorly-learned English turns out to be more rule-governed than we expect), and she does an admirable job of describing some of LOLspeak’s principle characteristics. Of equal interest is a fascinating and light-hearted exploration of the nature of LOLspeak: is it more like “motherese,” the language we use to address infants, or a pidgin, the language we use to communicate with others with whom we share no common tongue? Aliza’s paper is a delightful mix of scholarship and humor, which in my experience is all too rare in college papers.

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